I'm JUST Sayin…

#5 – You can’t spell “overrated” without TV.

Hey, look! It’s another volume of “I’m JUST Sayin…”, the opinion column that begs the question: “Wouldn’t you really rather have a Buick?” Has it been two months already??? Well, no, but I admit to fallin’ WAAAAAY behind on this particular project. Hey, I write a daily column over there in the Jungle, and even a man of my stature can only type and whine SO MUCH during one 24 hour period. Having said that, I’ll reiterate what it am I do here. This is the place where I whine and complain about things that bug me; rant and rave incessantly about the things I like; generally foist my opinions as “The Whole Truth,” but still try to leave ya the room to say “That Cobra guy’s bug-@#$@# crazy”, all while spinning plates on both hands, and balancing a soccer ball on the tip of my nose.

Take THAT, PWTorch.com!

In any case, today’s TOPIC is television, the CATEGORY is “Free-Floating Hostility,” and the course level is 202. I’m your instructor, Da Mighty King Cobra, feel free to call me if the homework is too hard… I won’t help, but it’s always nice to vent, and we could mebbe share some pizza rolls or something. Today’s Lecture Topic:


Sure, it’s well-covered ground, but WHY is so much of Reality TV completely devoid of any form of reality? Shouldn’t something CALLED ‘reality entertainment’ contain some of EITHER???

There have been a LOT of complaints about the Reality genre, and any Seinfeld-imitator worth his salt has added the “Survivor” jokes to his “Gilligan’s Island,” “Airline Food,” “Wife On Period,” and “What’s The Deal With Oprah?” arsenal. I doubt that ANYONE would argue that the Reality TV currently being offered is SO FAR REMOVED from reality that the people ACTUALLY HAVE BECOME TWO-DIMENSIONAL CHARACTERS. Actually, more to the point, they’re just canny enough to *become* characters, knowing that that makes for more screen time.

I bring this up after watching “The Surreal Life,” where Chyna and X-Pac argued in the garden for fourteen minutes, and Chyna continuously made the point that he was never like this “except on TV!” Apparently, in the lost biblical tome “The Epistle of X-Pac To The Jabronies,” the best way to make nice with your partner of choice is to wait until she has an audience and a show of her own, then horn in and try and take over the program. Everybody loves the Fonzie, right? Urkel RULED Family Matters, so this HAS to work! Cause nothing proves your love more than a drunken rant in front of fourteen teamsters and a creepy producer girl motioning for you to “Stretch for the break, then you can kiss and make up!”

Let me start by saying, I love Chyna, and would probably eat DIRT if she endorsed it, even though she’s pretty much a certifiable loon with a plastic surgery fetish who may or may not have swallowed more HGH than I have M&M’s… But this was so sad, so pathetic, so very frightening and personal that I had to switch over to Cartoon Network and watch Master Shake abuse that poor dumb hamburger chunk…

What was most depressing wasn’t that it was on television (Hell, the medium has a LONG history of presenting human suffering and emotional torture as entertainment. Remember “Twenty-One?”) It wasn’t that Chyna and X-Pac were apparently only able to have this discussion in front of cameras (after all, they’re both notorious attention hounds who have fallen out of the public spotlight, and the crux of their relationship seems to be a statement of “SCREW YOU ALL, WE ONLY NEED EACH OTHER!!! and booze).

The part that most depressed me was that I found myself wondering… Scratch that. I found myself *almost CARING* what happened next… It was like “Tod Browning’s As The World Turns,” a purple testament to love and life among the circus geeks. Seriously, I had to go and buy another copy of “The Catcher in the Rye,” and re-watch the commentary track of Kevin Smith’s “Dogma” to regain my Indy intellectual street cred. It was horrifying. Why do I hate reality TV? Much like Dave Sim, I can’t say I HATE it. Hate tends to imply a lot more connection than I actually have to the material. I wouldn’t even say I DISLIKE the genre, I just no longer understand more than five minutes of it at a time… much like Dave Sim.

Remember “The Real World?” I used to love that mess. Back in ’91, I thought it was gripping docudrama, where they took kids from different backgrounds, different realities, who had different goals and dreams, and made them interact. Okay, to be honest, FORCED ’em to interact. Sure, there was the ham-handed presence of cameras and sound men, but that was part of the fun! They were clearly visible, just like any documentary show… And in the first season, Southern Belle Julie and Angry African-American Kevin clashed, and the producers realized…

“This crap might sell! Quick, we need another Southern Belle and Angry Young Man!”

Season Two switched it up by making the Southern Belle a boy, and the Angry girl a Muslim named Tami, but they added another twist: Let’s lock them up in a camper for five days and FORCE the conflict!!! That’s brilliant!!! Season three added the twist of Pedro, the brilliant activist and HIV educator (marking the last time anybody on the show seemed to have any goal other than “LOOK AT MEEEE!!!!”), but they smartly balanced his intellectual approach (It won’t play in Peoria, Dan…) with the “Doodoo Kaka, I’m EDGY!! See how edgy I am, I snotted in the peanut butter!!” presence of Puck. To be frank, I blame Puck for the whole goddamn reality TV schmozz, the little cock-rocket…

By season five, it was all buzzwords: Every season had “Activist Gay Kid,” and “Southern Ignorant Kid,” and “Idiot Party Kid,” and especially “Snotty Uppercrust Kid.” It was like the old traveling carnival shows, where the Bearded Lady and the Sword Swallowing Man left the Midway and went out the Waffle House for fries, except in the carnival, the freaks weren’t as extreme. Today’s Reality TV has given us DEEP PHILOSOPHICAL MESSAGES in bite-size format, making a mockery of deep philosophy AND, sadly, of Bite Size. You know you’re screwed when your intellectual level drops below that of the mini-bag of “Almond Joy” at the Dollar General Store. Worst of all, is that these days each new season of “The Real World” consists of idiot teenagers who KNOW what it’s about, who craft their own character in an attempt to get air-time, carefully calculating each move like they’re building an Aurora model, with nearly as clear and obvious a blueprint.

So, what have *I* learned from reality TV?

“American Idol” has taught me that music-types are greedy, stupid, petty, vicious idiots.

“The Apprentice” has taught me that business-types are greedy, stupid, petty, vicious idiots.

“The Surreal Life” has taught me that Media Has-Beens are greedy, stupid, petty, vicious idiots.

“America’s Top Model” has taught me that fashion-industry-types are greedy, stupid, petty, vicious idiots.

“Survivor” has taught me that the average man-on-the-street is a greedy, stupid, petty, vicious idiot.

“Tough Enough” taught me that wrestling-industry-types are greedy, stupid, petty, MACHO, vicious idiots who’ll $#!+ in your handbag.

All told, it’s quite a menu of glamour, illusion, bullshit, and wicked editing to behold… The fact is, this type of programming hasn’t had any edge at all since the first season of “The Joe Schmoe Show.” Interestingly, this was the last time more than fifty people watched anything on Spike TV that didn’t feature creative control by Paul Levesque… Most frightening to me is the fact that certain networks (I’m lookin’ at YOU, Fox… And don’t get so damn cocky, VH-1, you’re in my radar, too!) apparently intend to build their entire schedule on this crap. The more I watch, the more I think that maybe the networks have hit on the perfect show… Maybe the fact that these programs continue to sell, and that “The Bachelor” is now back with another season of crap is a clear and prominent sign…

Maybe they’re telling us that they’ve figured out the lost Holy Grail of Television, hidden for ten years in a jar of Regis Philbin’s ass-cream… Written on parchment made of kidskin, in the language of ancient entertainers, it speaks the one truth of any media that requires an audience, a truth that dates back to William Shakespeare and beyond; to the first caveman who tripped on dinosaur feces in front of a crowd of people, and kinda liked the attention he got:

The Average Viewer is a stupid, petty, vicious, voyeuristic idiot, and somewhere, deep inside us, we really believe that “what happens after the next break is the most SHOCKING moment in television history!”

However, that doesn’t excuse giving Paris Hilton airtime…. Unless she’s co-starring with Shannon Doherty, Jessica Simpson, The Olsen Twins, and Cindy Margolis, and the show is called “Girls You Want To Stuff Head-First Down A Sewage Pipe Just To Hear Their Echoey Screams.”

Hell, *I’d* tune in…

Lookin' Under The Lid #3: Romeo and Juliet

In 1996, Director Baz Luhrmann put a post-modern twist on one of the most romantic love stories told with William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The characters traded in their rags for Versace, their daggers for pistols and castles for elaborate mansions in this Shakespeare remake. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Romeo, the Montague trying to capture the heart of Juliet Capulet, played by Claire Danes. However, the Montagues and Capulets, the two richest families in Verona, have a rivalry and hatred towards one another. The clans will stop at nothing to dismantle the other, just as Romeo and Juliet will stop at nothing to be together.

There are three scenes I would like to touch up on, starting from … well … the start, I suppose.

Thumb Biters at the Gas Station
A firefight ensues, started by two smartass Montague servants literally “biting their thumbs” towards members of the Capulet squad at a Gas Station. I like the scene because using guns at a Gas Station represents destruction and the film symbolizes the tearing and destruction of two families. However, because the environment is in post-modern Verona, they should have used middle fingers instead of thumb-biting. I know it was looked at as an insult back a few centuries ago. Nowadays, if somebody were “biting their thumb,” people would think the person is a sketch ball or may contain an oral fixation. I’m sure there are a few freaks in Verona.

Killing Mercutio and Tybalt
So Tybalt is all fired up and wanting to rip somebody’s head off so he decides to pick a fight with Romeo. Although Romeo declined to dance, Tybalt roughed him up, causing a battle. Somehow during the break-up of the brawl, Tybalt “accidentally” killed Mercutio. Romeo (or Leonardo DiCaprio if you will) walked towards Mercutio like the baby he is, crying like he lost his new shirt. Mercutio tried shaking off the fatal injury and when he realizes he is dying, he becomes this angry man and yelled, “A plague … a plague on both your houses.” Talk about being moody. After DiCaprio is done crying like the little baby he is, rain began falling from the sky. A huge thunder and lightening storm brews. Oh no! He’s mad! Don’t piss off DiCaprio.

So what happens next? The roles reverse: DiCaprio becomes a psycho and Tybalt becomes a pussy. Tybalt gets the crap kicked out of him and got shot more than 50 Cent. And what happens after these murder sprees? A banishment from Verona. That’s it. I know this play was written centuries ago, but come on. If you are going to update a play, just don’t update the setting. Don’t do it half-ass. Heck, if killing somebody only got you removed from a certain town, then the death toll would be a lot higher today. I could see it now; “Hey man, I’m moving to Canada … I just killed some bitch for looking at me the wrong way.”

So after the banishment, Juliet and Friar Laurence wrote a letter to Romeo, which explained the plan. He was to rescue Juliet at the Crypt, where she “faked” her death. Only problem is Romeo heared from his servant that she was alread dead. Romeo returned to town to say his last farewell and never received the letter.

Committing Suicide at the Crypt
Juliet (or Claire Danes) is in her final resting place, surrounded by millions of magnificent candles in a room bigger than the size of any school dormitory. The secret is she really isn’t dead; Friar Laurence gave her a pill, which kept her asleep for several days, but of course DiCaprio (or Romeo) doesn’t know this. So, he snuck into this fabulous Crypt, saw the love of his life motionless and knew for himself she is dead. After DiCaprio does what he does best (cries like he skinned his knee), he drank a potion and as he died, he saw Danes waking up. So now, he’s a confused dead person. When she realized he didn’t know, she screams “Oh Happy Dagger” and takes her life too. I thoroughly loved the setting as it was both eerie and beautiful at the same time. Both DiCaprio and Danes pulled it off nicely and it was the best scene, mainly because it wasn’t far-stretched from what really happened. It really catches the mood of regret and despair.

In regards to the lighting, it seemed somewhat like natural daylight and night time, which was pretty cool. When a character was sad, then it would rain and background music would slow down. When it got intense, the camera angles focused on the mug and music sped up.

Although the film takes place in the present-day environment, the language was the same as the book. Don’t get me wrong; I like the lingo in the book, but if you are going to do a remake, then relate the whole thing to today. That is why this movie isn’t a remake: it’s just an update of imagery.

Oh yea. If DiCaprio wasn’t such a big sissy, this movie probably would have been better. You know Shakespeare is going to be kicking Luhrmann ass in heaven.

The Decision: Throw it in the Trash.

(Would you ‘Keep it in the stash’ or ‘Throw it in the trash’? Let us know.)

Enjoy The Silence 10

The Great American Card Game

We are currently in the midst of a gaming phenomenon, a craze that is taking the world by storm. Strangely this particular activity has been with us for decades, but has been stereotyped perhaps as a past time for those with serious gambling related illnesses or criminal association. Well no longer is this game confined to smokie back alley pool halls or even the glitz of Vegas. Ladies and Gentleman, Poker has been brought to the masses.

Remarkably in the last 2 years the popularity of Poker has boomed across the globe. More and more people are seeking to play Poker as a profession, or in the mainstream as a great hobby and past time. I for one have been roped into Poker in recent weeks, a friend of mine joined a local club and invited me along for the ride, and I was quite frankly horrified by how enjoyable it was! For those who have never played the game you may be forgiven for thinking it is like any other gambling activity and alot of luck is involved. Well they say it is better to be lucky than to be good, but luck alone will not win a game of Poker and that is the beauty of it. There is so much strategy to the game, mathematics and logic are involved in every decision to be made and as they say “it takes 5 minutes to learn but a lifetime to master” and once you have the basics covered, mastering the game is so very rewarding!

There are a number of reasons for the takeoff of Poker. ESPN have been doing some terrific coverage of the World Series Of Poker in Vegas, in previous years it was a very gray and dull production, but now there is so much vibrancy and character in the presentation of the show that it will appeal to a much more mainstream audience and they even take time out to teach you the basics of the game throughout each episode. Also the Internet has played an integral part, the simple ease to get online and play means that Joe-Average can learn the game in minutes, either playing for “play money” or putting your cash where your mouth is.

There are huge amounts of money to be made playing Poker, with any of the big tournaments offering over $1,000,000 to the winner and the best part is anyone can do it! But I must also point out that money is there to be lost also, and Media Rebellion would like to take this opportunity to encourage responsible gambling within your means, thank you! But people will very quickly fall in love with the game once you’ve played it a few times and maybe dream of being the next Doyle Brunson or Phil Hellmuth (former world champions), many people already have. The winner of the World Series of Poker in 2003 Chris Moneymaker (the name is so appropriate!) entered the competition via an online qualifier or what is known in the Poker world as a ‘satellite’ tournament. This means instead of fronting the $5000 required to enter the WSOP you pay something like $50 to play a series of smaller tournaments and the winners of the smaller tournaments will enough to buy into the WSOP main event. Chris Moneymaker being an account by trade saw good value for money and invested his $50 and turned it into a $3,000,000 jackpot.

It doesn’t matter though weather your playing with the pro’s in Vegas or with your friends in a home game, Poker is fun, challenging and very exciting and looks like it is here to stay. So as they say in the game “shuffle up and deal”.